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Tribes turn to Congress to seal $5B Colorado River settlement

By Jennifer Yachnin | 06/10/2024 01:35 PM EDT

The Navajo Nation, Hopi Tribe and San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe capped 40 years of negotiations with a deal last month, but Congress still must sign off.

A woman attaches a hose to a water pump to fill tanks in her truck outside a tribal office on the Navajo reservation

Raynelle Hoskie attaches a hose to a water pump to fill tanks in her truck outside a tribal office in the Navajo Nation in Tuba City, Arizona, on April 20, 2020. Carolyn Kaster/AP

BOULDER, Colorado — Tribal leaders in the Colorado River Basin are urging Congress to quickly sign off on a $5 billion settlement that would cap four decades of negotiations and speed construction of a new pipeline to deliver water from Lake Powell to reservation lands.

The would ensure flows from the Colorado River, its tributaries and aquifers to the Navajo Nation, Hopi Tribe and San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe.

Each of the three tribes endorsed the agreement in May — which was also negotiated by the state of Arizona, a team from Interior Secretary Deb Haaland’s American Indian water rights office and a smattering of local governments — and it must now go to Congress for approval, including spending $5 billion for infrastructure projects, operational needs and purchasing additional water rights.

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“The work is not done,” Navajo Nation President Buu Nygren said last week at the University of Colorado’s annual Colorado Law Conference on Natural Resources.

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